Fear of Outing At Yale

Sure, mommy and daddy are thrilled to tell the neighbors that their baby goes to Yale Law School, but will they still be so thrilled with their lil darling when they see that angelic face in a shot of outlaws @ Yale? After learning that Yale Federalist Society held an event with Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”) which, this time, went forward without incident, David Lat wondered whether this meant YLS had emerged more open and tolerant of diverse views or something else.

One of [Lat’s] sources, a current Yale Law School student who was involved in last year’s protest, shed light on this topic, in a detailed and thoughtful email (reprinted with their permission, with links added by me for clarity):

Just to be clear, this is one Yale law student’s views on “why,” but it does have a ring of reality to it.

The first was the change to the Rights and Duties of the Members of Yale Law School, specifically the establishment of “Substantially interfering with the conduct of classes” and “Substantially interfering with student-sponsored or student group-sponsored events or functions” as major offenses. There are those who would cheer this one as a response to last year, but I think there are serious concerns about what these actually mean.

Lacking clarity as to what would violate the new rules, students would rather not protest, peacefully or otherwise, than risk punishment. On the one hand, the chilling effect of vague rules is a very real problem, although it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to be relatively certain that silent, peaceful protest, say holding signs in one’s seat while quietly listening, would not be a violation.

On the other hand, if the speech was so harmful and traumatic as to be worthy of outraged disruptions before, is it now not awful enough to take a tiny risk? Apparently not, which suggests that the protests were performative and there was nothing actually harmful about the presentations in the first place. Cue Phil Ochs.

But the rules may not be where the real fear arises.

But by far the biggest concern, at least from my perspective, is the doxing of students. As you are probably aware, allegedly a member of the Federalist Society sent screenshots of three students’ Instagram feeds (two of which were private) to the Washington Free Beacon, which published those images. The Free Beacon reached out to at least one of the student’s employers, and the students faced significant online threats.

Similarly, an email sent to the Outlaws listserv was forwarded to the Free Beacon in relation to this most recent event, where the student’s email signature was published (except for their pronouns, which were cropped out, and which the Free Beacon continued to misgender—just seemed like an unnecessarily s*****y thing to do). Passing screenshots around has always been an issue, what with the Amy Chua-related messages being passed around.

So they want to be bold, brave, fierce warriors for the cause, as long as they get to hide behind rocks when they throw pebbles? To be fair, there are future career prospects at stake here, clerkships, Biglaw bonuses, maybe circuit judgeships one day. To be fair, it’s not beyond the realm of understandable. They worked pretty darn hard to get where they are and they have no idea what opportunities the future may bring. Who knows whether their childish law school feelings will be more important than their run for the senate in a decade or two?

And then there’s the disapproval of mommy and daddy, who may not be entirely familiar with the word “misgender” when their baby girl* was always a, well, girl, before she became a girl who identifies as tri-binary using the pronouns “they” and “them,” even though it hasn’t had any impact on her dating habits and she can hide the tattoo under her brassiere.

This gave rise to a question by Lat posed to a handful of important voices on twitter.

Granted, the question posed raises questions of their own. Who are they suing and for what, for example. It matters. But on the initial question of whether they students should be able to remain anonymous at protests, the answer seems fairly obvious. What you choose to do in public is public. If you don’t want it to be public, don’t do it.

The same can be said for the aggrieved “doxing” of instagram accounts. Even though it may not be fully public, it’s public in the sense that it’s open to a group of people, any one of whom has the capacity to reveal its contents. Can an instagram account be formed under the pseudonym Publius (or any variation thereof) and conceal the real identity of the student? Beats me, since I’m not an insta user, but assuming it can, then the way to be private is not to attach one’s name to one’s words, as if very often the case on twitter, and suffer whatever loss of credibility is associated with pseudonymity.

If not, don’t use insta to express views to a group you don’t want to go public.

What Lat’s question ignores is that choices get made by people who should know better. If you want to be bold, brave, fierce warriors for the cause, then put on your big boy pants and stand firm when your chosen words are held out for public reaction. You don’t get to have it both ways, to be that bold, brave, fierce warrior for the cause while hiding behind rocks.

The willingness to put one’s future career opportunities at risk for a cause in which you believe is a credit to the strength of your conviction. That it will piss off mommy and daddy who sacrificed to get you to Yale law school so you’ll be able to enjoy a better and easier life than they endured for your benefit is the price your social justice passion exacts.

  • I have to.

6 thoughts on “Fear of Outing At Yale

  1. Mike V

    “ If you want to be bold, brave, fierce warriors for the cause, then put on your big boy pants and stand firm when your chosen words are held out for public reaction.”

    And that is what separates the culture warriors of today from their grandparents of the 1960s. Students of the 1960s accepted the risks of protesting, though they were generally mild. The radicals of today hide behind closed accounts, anonymous posts, and masks thinking they somehow should be immune from consequence.

    1. Mark Schirmer

      What’s interesting is the protests and attempts to cancel others are defended as the ordinary and necessary consequences of free speech.

  2. Guitardave

    “Under what circumstances should law students be able to remain anonymous?”

    When throwing maltolov cocktails at cop cars…?
    So…do I get a prize?

  3. B. McLeod

    The objectives of the passionate are to be pursued at all costs, except the cost of potentially losing their bourgeois “Yale” stamp of social accreditation, and the cost of future income opportunities. But, all other costs.

  4. Rxc

    No one seems to be willing to pledge their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” any more to make a revolution.

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